In moving to a new elementary campus this year, I am coming into somewhat of an unknown. One thing I have been told is that the students at this school lack motivation and family support, and are often absent. Students can’t learn the curriculum when they’re absent; we need them on campus, participating with and learning from their teachers and peers! These students need to see the value in education and be excited to come to school to learn, and they’re not going to be motivated by the idea of sitting at a desk doing worksheets.
My goal is to help the teachers at my campus make learning more meaningful by using blended learning to raise student motivation and engagement, and therefore the attendance level. My role as an instructional coach on the campus will be to help the teachers understand the ideas behind blended learning and how to use it in their classrooms. I will then be available to help plan instruction throughout the year, monitor student data, gather necessary resources, and model classroom management and instruction as needed.
At the elementary level, most teachers are already accustomed to the concept of a station rotation model. When using the right technology and activities within this model, it could be very effective in engaging students. In a station rotation model, students might spend 1/3 of their time in independent online learning, 1/3 of their time working with partners and groups on projects, and 1/3 of their time in a workshop format having discussions with their peers and their teacher. This time with the teacher can be used for reviewing student goals and progress in their online learning, discussing work that they are completing with their group or partner, or refining understanding about a concept(s). Based on our district beliefs, I see these rotations happening 3-4 days per week, with 1 or 2 days then being used for whole class work and discussions.
Much of the online learning in the station rotation could be prepared and completed using Google Classroom. Students in our district have access to Chromebooks and are familiar with Google Classroom. Within this platform, there are many possibilities of having students watch interactive videos, read articles or stories, watch an explanation of a concept in a teacher-made video, or participate in a conversation with other students in their classroom or around the world. There is also the possibility of using websites to teach students to code, which reinforces problem solving skills. Teachers can use state-provided resources such as Think Through Math and iStation online as well. This will allow students to have choice in their learning and teachers to have data about each child’s individual progress. They will be able to use that data to help them plan each students’ next steps and form flexible groups to meet with each day.
A key component in motivating and engaging students is the creation of personal goals. Teachers and students can work together to set achievable, appropriate goals based on the state standards for their grade level. Using goal statements such as ‘I will…’ or ‘I can…’ will help students have a positive mindset toward their learning.
Upon implementing this blended learning model, I will work with teachers to monitor and track attendance levels in their classrooms. With choice and voice in their learning, students will be motivated to come to school and participate each day. With a higher attendance rate, more students will be learning and more progress will be made across the school.